UW Farm Interim Development Coordinator

Executive Summary:

During the last two years, the UW Farm has cultivated a dramatic increase in student use and interest, a doubling of food production and land area, new organic and Salmon-Safe certifications, a new food security role on campus in partnership with the UW Food Pantry, a growing food sovereignty partnership with wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ Intellectual House, and expanded demands for research collaborations.  The University Sustainability Action Plan identifies food sustainability as a priority for our campus.  In that plan, there is strong support for university facilities to purchase directly from the UW Farm and for the farm to grow as a living laboratory for campus. Concurrently, UW Farm funding has stagnated in part because of rising student labor costs and pandemic-related decreases in Housing and Food Services (HFS) purchasing and UW Grounds support. It is critical that the UW Farm develop a strategic action plan to address the challenges in meeting present and future demands for academic programming.   


The UW Farm Advisory Committee has been working closely with the Farm Manager to identify areas in need of staffing and mechanisms for funding and fundraising. This is a crucial moment of farm growth.  We urgently need support to collaborate in developing a strategic action plan for the farm for the next ten years. This process includes identifying areas of need and options for staffing to fill those needs, identifying and creating pathways for additional revenue, and working with UW Advancement to identify outside funding sources for the UW Farm. With this support, the farm can continue to respond to growing student demand, center outreach to diverse student populations, and be a shining example of sustainability at UW.     


This strategic, short-term position - the UW Farm Interim Development Coordinator - is available for a graduate student to learn with the farm leadership as we research and build a coalition across the university.  Specifically, this graduate student role - designated as a Research Assistant (RA) - will work with the UW Farm Manager to help identify needs, assist in organizational tasks, analyze student involvement data, prepare materials for strategic planning meetings, develop graphics for presentations with potential campus partners, and work with farm staff to ease some of the administrative burdens of running a campus farm. Currently, there is only one permanent staff member, so gaining the support of an RA would make a substantial difference. Additionally, this role will support the farm through an important capacity-building moment, with increased need for food security, food sovereignty, and food systems programming through the pandemic and beyond. The outcome of this work includes a strategic action plan for a more sustainable program better scaled to the farm’s funding model and student demand. The proposal requests $45,045 to support this RA position and $7,200 to support the farm manager’s time collaborating in this work, totalling this grant request to $52,245.   We believe this position is vital for helping the farm move forward with a long-term strategic action plan for growth in both production and education for our campus.   


This proposal is designed to help the UW Farm develop the strategic capacity of the farm to manage growth in its operations.  The RA will be housed in the Environmental Studies department and will report to Dr. Eli Wheat (Program on the Environment & Food Systems, Nutrition, and Health & Co-Chair - Farm Advisory Committee).  However, the student in this position will also work closely with Perry Acworth (UW Farm Manager) and Dr. Yona Sipos (Core Faculty - Food Systems, Nutrition, and Health & Co-Chair - Farm Advisory Committee). This position is essential to the sustainable functioning of the UW Farm, as the RA will further develop and support the potential for transdisciplinary academics and help grow ongoing programmatic relationships centered in access, inclusion, and equity, as exemplified by our relationships with wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ Intellectual House and the UW Food Pantry.


Student Involvement:

One graduate student will be hired part-time as a Research Assistant (RA) for 20 hours per week for three quarters. This student will report to Eli Wheat with site supervisor, Perry Acworth. It is essential that the student understand the educational programming and production systems of the UW Farm. However, the primary job of the RA will be to help strategize and support the creation of a stronger cross-campus coalition of departments and units willing to help integrate the farm more deeply within academic programs and opportunities. In collaboration with the UW Farm Advisory Committee, this student will help translate these relationships into mutualistic funding partnerships through a long-term, capacity-building strategic plan.

Education & Outreach:

We envision that with the support and capacities of this Research Assistant, the UW Farm will be able to move from reacting to student needs to proactively developing educational opportunities for students, faculty, and community members alike. In this, we aim to to extend the breadth of transdisciplinary courses and programs offered by departments and units in partnership with the farm. Experiential and hands-on learning opportunities abound at the farm and support student access to high impact practices of active learning. Increasing access, inclusion, equity, and justice in food production spaces is central to our mission. The RA will further help the farm realize this principle by cultivating justice-driven, generative partnerships. Additionally, we will create mentorship opportunities to support students interested in farming and food systems - especially those historically excluded from these spaces. Increasing farm capacity can also translate into innovative research opportunities for students and faculty. Beyond university partnerships, we also hope to advance community engagement and educational opportunities by providing a thriving space that local schools and organizations can use to inspire students. Finally, supporting the academic success of all students on campus also means ensuring that they are food secure. We can contribute to this through collaboration with our partner, the UW Food Pantry. The UW Farm is a powerhouse of visionary activity. This RA position will provide vital support for a strategic analysis of our efforts and help us focus our work in ways that best match student needs and university priorities.    


To communicate this work to the broader UW community, the RA will assist in social media engagement and publication strategies such as writing for the UW Farm newsletter. Specifically, the RA will contribute social media content to post on the UW Farm’s and other UW social media platforms. This RA will also mentor UW Farm AmeriCorps members and student staff interested in gaining this outreach skill. Using data from the analysis of student involvement, the RA will also reach out to student-run journalistic organizations, like The Daily, Currents, and FieldNotes to raise awareness of student-driven research and advancements in environmental justice taking place on the farm. Finally, the UW Farm will continue to take an active role in recruiting community engaged service learners through the Community Engagement & Leadership Education Center (CELE).

Environmental Impact:
  • Food
  • Living Systems and Biodiversity
  • Waste
  • Water
  • Environmental Justice
  • Community Development
  • Cultural Representation
  • Social Justice
Project Longevity:

The UW Farm has a well established reputation of excellence in leadership on campus sustainability efforts. This project will have an enormously important impact on the future of the UW Farm and its continued growth in integrating with academic departments and units across our university. This is a strategic moment to craft a sustainable strategic action plan for the UW Farm to grow even deeper roots and multi- and transdisciplinary partnerships to support its longevity.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, the farm’s prominence and potential has been increasing through strengthened and persistent partnerships with the UW Food Pantry and wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ Intellectual House. Student food insecurity is rising, as is support and demand for programming related to sustainable food systems and agriculture. The UW Botanic Gardens (UWBG) - the academic program in which the farm is housed - is currently undergoing a programmatic restructuring that includes hiring a new Director and creating a new position of Academic Coordinator. Additionally, the College of the Environment has recently initiated the search for a new Assistant Teaching Professor in the Environmental Studies department - this hire has in it some time to support curricular development at the UW Farm. Now is the right moment to invest the time and resources in supporting student sustainability learning and leadership on the farm by developing appropriate cross-campus support. Though this RA-ship is only planned for three academic quarters, the support during this transformative time will enable staffing to make both quality production and education possible on this site into the long term.

Environmental Problem:

The UW Farm is currently meeting a number of priority areas in sustainability, but is facing challenges in programmatic sustainability. The UW Farm is well-known throughout the campus community and within the larger bioregion of Cascadia as a center for teaching and inspiring food system-engaged student sustainability leaders. As student and community interest in the farm has continued to grow, farm management has had to face a difficult choice: either scale back programming and risk excluding certain student groups and units, or work with the campus community to identify and sustainably support programs that are in high demand, but are currently underfunded. Though the food production poundage coming out of the UW Farm is impressive, the sustainability challenge we are meeting isn’t measured in pounds of carbon or kilowatts of energy. It will be measured by our success in scaling farm production and education activities to match the capacity of our labor force. The outcome of this project will be a strategic plan that identifies and cultivates an actionable path forward for the UW Farm to sustainably fund staffing for transdisciplinary and applied ecological, environmental, and food system sustainability programming to support student learning and community leadership.

Explain how the impacts will be measured:

Since the sustainability challenge that the UW Farm is grappling with is that of scale and programmatic sustainability, we believe the following measures will best capture the specific impact of this RA-ship:

  • Collaborating with the Farm Advisory Committee and partners to complete a strategic action plan which will help guide UW Farm priorities and cross-campus partnership development.
  • Analyzing and presenting student-use data to determine centers of student activity and potential untapped departmental collaborators. 
  • Constructing a benefit-cost analysis tool that will help guide UW Farm decision-making, for example as we weigh opportunities for growth and development against costs of programmatic expansion.
  • Identifying a sustainable staffing model for the farm and suggesting pathways forward to build or restructure farm practices to meet that model.     


We also imagine that this strategic capacity-building RA-ship will enhance the sustainability of current UW Farm goals. These goals, and their associated impacts, include:

  • Providing students with practical urban farming experience, from planning to production to the table. 
  • Creating a model of sustainable and resilient urban food production at the UW.
  • Providing reliable, predictable, certified organic, salmon-safe certified, GAP or and quality food-safety certified produce for sales, including but not limited to the UW Farm Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), and UW Housing & Food Services (HFS). 
  • Providing over $17,000 worth of produce and garden starter seeds and plants free of charge for other uses such as the Humblefeast, UW Food Pantry, student gleaning teams, UW Farm events, and select campus fundraisers and non-UW organizations and area food banks. 
  • Facilitating food sovereignty initiatives and the growing of traditional foods and preserving of farming practices in cooperation with wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ, the UW Intellectual House under the Office of Minority Affairs, including the Native Garden Plot at the Center for Urban Horticulture.
  • Linking, supervising and mentoring the practice of urban farming directly to over 24 interdisciplinary academic programs in the study of food, including but not limited to coursework, independent research, capstone and culminating experiences, and other experiential-learning opportunities including mentoring and collaborating on numerous ongoing CSF grants.
  • Being a welcoming neighbor to the immediate community by engaging with visitors and offering volunteer programs to both UW and non-UW individuals. 
  • Supporting remote learning via multiple platforms daily, especially in the COVID era, to the general public and UW students and faculty in the areas of urban food systems, sustainability and resiliency. 
Total amount requested from the CSF: $52,245
This funding request is a: Grant
If this is a loan, what is the estimated payback period?:


This amounts to fully covering one graduate student for 9 months with a benefit load of 22.4% and tuition waiver for 3 quarters.
ItemCost per ItemQuantityTotal Cost
RA salary ($/month, over 9 months)26199$23,571
Benefits ($/month, over 9 months)586.6569$5,280
Tuition Waiver (per quarter)53983$16,194
UW Farm Manger Time - supervision ($/hour)40180$7,200

Non-CSF Sources:

Faculty time for this project is supported by in-kind support from CoE, the School of Public Health, HFS, and wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ
ItemCost Per ItemQuantityTotal Cost
Faculty Time - Yona Sipos ($/hour)55144$7,920
Faculty Time - Eli Wheat ($/hour)55288$15,840
Project Completion Total: $76,005


Where Q1 = Fall Quarter 2021, Q2 = Winter Quarter 2022, and Q3 = Spring Quarter 2022
TaskTimeframeEstimated Completion Date
Stakeholder MeetingsQ112/17/2021
Budgetary Option Matrix For EducationQ112/17/2021
UW Farm User Data AnalysisQ112/17/2021
Draft Strategic PlanQ23/18/2022
Continue to Build Coalition of SupportQ23/18/2022
Final Strategic PlanQ36/10/2022
Strategic Plan Presentation Q36/10/2022